Jane Farwell, Chester McCartney and Other Environmental Conservationists

Environmental conservation ruled the lives of Beth and Jim Nelson and Chester McCartney while Jane Farwell lived for folklore.

| May/June 1978

Check out these unique profiles of MOTHER-type folks from all over.

Chester McCartney: American Goat Man

Environmental conservation is nothing new to Chester McCartney. Over a lifetime, he's used about as little energy and natural resources as any individual alive, yet he's crossed the country 15 times and become an almost-legendary figure as the American Goat Man for many rural youngsters.

From around 1930 to 1968, this bearded vagabond from Jeffersonville, Ga. traveled on foot all over the U.S. (more than 100,000 miles) with his two cluttered wagons pulled along by a team of goats. It was a real treat for country children — especially back in the '30s and '40s when radios, TVs, movies, etc., were scarce — to learn of his coming. Their pre-arrival excitement would culminate (in some places, at least) when school was let out for the day and all could run out en masse to greet this mysterious man. Sometimes Chester would stay in town for a week, entertaining the kids with stories of his many adventures and funny tales about his animals . . . then one morning he would disappear to parts unknown.

Throughout his journeys, McCartney managed to "save" in his use of anything, even though the practice wasn't yet fashionable. He never owned an automobile. He cooked his meals in woods and on highways using whatever fuels were available. He slept near his goats in the winter to take advantage of their natural animal heat. He bathed in rivers and creeks, and his prepackaged entertainment came not from TV, but from the mountains and valleys of America.

In 1978, while living in his retirement shack, the 90-year-old Goat Man provided a working example of the "do-more-with-less" philosophy. He lit his cigarettes with candles, cooked on a homemade stove created from an oil drum cut in half (and fueled with newspapers and other trash he collects from surrounding cities), and even gathered reading material, clothing, pots and pans, usable dishes, and occasionally a snappy pair of shoes from other folks' "garbage" cans.

Chester McCartney truly had an "experiment with life". It's one we can all learn from.

12/29/2013 2:16:07 PM

For much more on Jim Nelson's experience working with Alan Chadwick, how Chadwick got started at the UCSC garden, and something of Alan's philosophy on life and horticulture, see: http://alan-chadwick.org/html%20pages/personal_memories/nelson-memories/jim-nelson--alan-chadwick.html More here: http://alan-chadwick.org/html%20pages/guide.html And for general information about Alan Chadwick, see: http://alan-chadwick.org

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